Etuhu: Jury still out but I deserve fresh start

Kelvin Etuhu made his Pompey debut against Cardiff lsat Saturday
Kelvin Etuhu made his Pompey debut against Cardiff lsat Saturday
Thomas Juel-Nielsen in action for Pompey reserves against Everton under-23s Picture: Colin Farmery

Defender leaves Pompey

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Kelvin Etuhu wants to clear his name.

The cherished fresh start is in his grasp thanks to Michael Appleton.

Yet he fears the jury has already made up its mind.

It was a late-night fight outside a Manchester casino almost two years ago which slammed the brakes on a highly-promising football career.

Etuhu and a friend were involved in a clash which left a man with a broken jaw.

A member of Manchester City’s first-team squad at the time, he was subsequently sentenced to eight months in prison.

The 23-year-old was released in August 2011, desperate to resurrect his tattered livelihood.

The sorrow for his crime unquestionably is genuine, yet in some people’s eyes there can be no absolution.

Etuhu’s re-emergence at Pompey has inevitably attracted sneers among some football followers.

It’s clear no amount of humility and regret can ever truly scrub off the stigma he will wear for the rest of his days.

The condemned man who continues to be condemned.

But Etuhu just wants the chance to write a new name for himself.

He said: ‘I am playing football again and I want to clear my name.

‘There are plenty of people who had ambitions but got detoured away and went to another side of life.

‘I have been there. I had a great life playing for Manchester City, coming from their youth academy and playing in the first team.

‘That was taken away from me in an instant following a mistake I made. This is what can happen.

‘That is all it was, a mistake. A moment of madness trying to mind my own business going home and I got caught up in a situation.

‘I went to prison as a result and sometimes in life you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it.

‘I realised what I had. Prison life opened my eyes and made me see that football is something you should give thanks for and appreciate.

‘I don’t want to have that taken away from me any more. I won’t let that happen.

‘At the moment, it seems I have a bad name but I am not a bad person. I am just Kelvin Etuhu and want to play football.

‘I made a mistake, people make mistakes, but I learned the hard way. Harder than maybe I should have learned but I am positive nothing like that will happen again.

‘Today I would react a lot differently to what I did then. I have learned, I have definitely learned.

‘Now it is all about football.’

It was in February 2010 when Etuhu was caught on CCTV kicking Owen Fitzpatrick three times after knocking him to the ground with a punch.

The footballer admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray.

His friend, Rico Richards, was jailed for four years after admitting attempted grievous bodily harm.

Manchester City subsequently cancelled the contract of a player who had come through the ranks alongside best friend Micah Richards to make 15 appearances.

At the age of 22, and after loan spells at Rochdale, Leicester and Cardiff, Etuhu had reached rock bottom.

Regardless, he insists today’s public perception of his character is wrong.

He added: ‘People who don’t know you make the judgement that “he’s gone to prison, so he must be a bad person”.

‘Yet those who actually know me were very, very surprised when it happened because they know that’s not the way I am.

‘To be fair, I have always been a grounded person, never big headed. I have always been a humble guy. I had never even been in any trouble before that, never arrested. Never.

‘It was just one thing.

‘The main thing now, though, is getting my head down and playing football.’

After being released from prison in the summer, Etuhu penned a two-year deal at Greek club Kavala.

Within weeks, however, they were relegated to the fourth division over a match-fixing scandal centring around the 2009-10 campaign.

Since November, he has been training with Pompey and penned a deal until the end of the season.

And steadily, Etuhu believes he is winning his gruelling climb back to the summit.

He said: ‘I’m fortunate enough to have a club again, so have to get my match fitness and match sharpness back.

‘In prison, it’s definitely hard to keep up your fitness.

‘You can go running in the gym, you can go on the treadmill and do little bits of cardio work.

‘But it is nothing compared to playing on a football field.

‘I didn’t play for any teams in there. I stayed away from that because I didn’t want any issues.

‘I have had to basically start from scratch again and build and build and build in training.

‘I still believe I have got that talent. I shall push forward and I shall work hard.

‘They always say if you work hard your talent will shine through. I hope so.’